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Posts Tagged ‘England’

We’ll be Just Fine

There has been a lot of negative reaction to the World Cup thus far and (of particular interest to me) the Dutch game against Denmark.  I am writing this now in an attempt to provide some much needed perspective and in some cases downright correction.

First of all let me list two sources of negative feedback for the Dutch.  The first is the match report on the Guardian by Paul Wilson.  The second report I came across was from the Associated Press by Robert Willward.  These are just examples I’m using to illustrate the prevailing thought I’m seeing with regards to the Dutch win.

I’ve heard a couple comparisons with England and I feel those are unwarranted.  I would characterize England as genuinely disappointing with players that are often thought of as world class.  In the case of the Dutch game  the Oranje, while not displaying the attacking verve all expected, were very well organized defensively which is not something you would say about most Dutch teams.  Upon reviewing the replay of the match I noticed Heitinga and Mathijsen were remarkable when anticipating passes coming into the feet of Denmark’s attackers.  Van der Wiel showed signs of promise and while van Bronckhorst was not an attacking force save one forray into the Danish box he defending reliably.

England are not going to win the World Cup because their team is not good enough.  Is the Dutch team any better?  Well yes the Dutch are stronger in attack, in the defensive bit of midfield and the defense seems to go about their duties with a minimum of fuss.  Will the Dutch win the World Cup?  It’s highly unlikely but that doesn’t mean they are a bad team.

Lastly consider this quote from the previously mentioned Paul Wilson’s match report:”Whisper it softly, but though Holland got off to a winning start in Group E their performance was not that much better than England’s. The Dutch fans must be hoping their team are slow starters too.”

In response to this I would like to make the following points with regards to the comparison:

  1. England were worse value for their result than the Dutch.  Denmark defended expertly however did not regularly threaten the Dutch and Stekelenburg looked sharp when called into action.
  2. England began with their best available team (bar Ferdinand) and struggled.  The Dutch were without Robben but were able to introduce a game-changing player in the shape of Elia: Robben has also returned from injury completing the attacking half of their lineup.  England have no such option off the bench.
  3. Both the English and Dutch were able to stick to their own style of play.  The Dutch had 66% of possession, thereby retaining control despiting struggling in attack.  England had 57% of possession but looked frequently threatened by Donovan and the pace of Findlay despite this.

I also wanted to take the results of the top teams (excluding Spain as they have not played at the time of writing) and put them into a certain context.  What I’ve done is I’ve taken the scores and divided the goals scored by the FIFA ranking of their opponent.  The purpose of this is to determine the “value” of each goal with respect to the difficulty of the opposition.  See below for the interesting results:

    Teams    
Rank Goals   Adj Goals   Goals Rank
4 2 Netherlands 0.056 0.000 Denmark 0 36
1 2 Brazil 0.019 1.000 North Korea 1 105
6 4 Germany 0.200 0.000 Australia 0 20
8 1 England 0.071 0.125 USA 1 14
7 1 Argentina 0.048 0.000 Nigeria 0 21

This is useful for determining the amount of hype we can attribute to a particular result.  Note Germany’s result being the heavy winner and with good reason.  Look then at the England/USA result and you can understand why the USA have responded so positively (albiet obnoxiously) to their result. 

If you compare now the results of the Netherlands and Argentina the prevailing opinion following Argentina’s win was positive.  Most of this positive feedback was directed towards Lionel Messi who, while lovely to watch, contributed nothing to the actual result.  The Dutch did indeed maintain their shape and went forward with their tactics; do the Argentenians have a similar plan?  What would the reaction have been without Messi sparkling throughout?

In conclusion I would simply like to make the point that the result was not disappointing but I will agree that they did not reach their full potential.  Against Japan we can look forward to a reunited Dutch attack.  I think I might continue using this dumb little formula to gage the true performance of each team.

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If the World Cup Were Now…

It’s Monday and we’ve all just barely made it through the day. I was thinking that things tend to change drastically between the end of World Cup Qualifying and the start of the tournament proper.  I’ve just included Europe for funzies.

So I thought why not put my Excel skills to work and find out where everyone stands at this point. Each team is in their own group and its hard to compare side by side. I’ve decided to look at two things only: the average number of points per game and the goal difference(goals conceded subracted from goals scored) per game. Simple right? Yes and just scientific enough to be worth a look.

I’ve sorted by points per game first and then by the average goal difference:

  Team Pts/Game GD/Game
1 England

3

3.25

2 Spain

3

2.375

3 Netherlands

3

1.875

4 Germany

2.75

2.5

5 Russia

2.625

1.75

6 Italy

2.5

1.25

7 Slovakia

2.375

1.625

8 Serbia

2.375

1.25

9 Denmark

2.25

1.375

10 Switzerland

2.125

0.875

Pretty interesting isn’t it?  England are top of the “World Cup Table”!  England, Spain and the Netherlands are all tied on points from their perfect results so far.  The Dutch are actually 4th in terms of Goal Difference per game with is interesting since they’ve been among the tightest defensively and somewhat conservative going forward.

Russia are the only team in the top 10 who are currently 2nd in their group.  Switzerland are also showing signs of improvement sneaking in at number 10.

Do we really think England will win the World Cup?  Well no because this doesn’t include Brazil at all does it?  What this table also doesn’t include is the mental strength of each team, intra-team bickering, individual mental breakdowns or other teams cheating (lets be honest).

In the end this all means nothing because Germany and Brazil will likely knock out all of the interesting teams.  At least we can hope the boring teams from everywhere except South American and Europe get knocked early and Spain and the Netherlands play some attractive football before succumbing to their old habits.